It’s been a busy year for Stevie Scullion and Malojian. The band released their second album the impressive ‘Southlands’ and just as 2015 draws to a close along comes a new video for the song ‘Crease of Your Smile’.
We recently managed to get Stevie to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule for a light-hearted chat about how his year has been and what we can look forward to in 2016 from Malojian.
2015 saw the release of the second Malojian album ‘Southlands’. Bands often talk about the difficult second album process. Did you find yourself going through that?
Not really. We were still promoting and touring ‘The Deer’s Cry’ when we recorded ‘Southlands’ so there was no pressure on us to deliver anything quickly. Plus, ‘Southlands’ really happened because we were having such a good time in the studio. I went to Mikey’s place to record some demos and it just sort of became an album instead.
The album was very well received upon release. How did that feel?
It’s always a nice feeling to have the stuff greeted nicely and the feedback was mainly great but not 100%. I think it’s good to have a bit of criticism in there too. Keep us on our toes.
You’ve listed Roy Harper and Neil Young as influences on your music and song writing. Any others?
Too many to list but a few would be Teenage Fanclub, The Stone Roses, The Beatles, Arcade Fire, Beck, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, The Band, The Low Anthem…
What makes a good venue and have you any favourites that you look forward to returning to play?
People make good venues. Obviously there are other factors like the sound system, the layout etc. but without a good audience what’s the point? We played a gig this year and we’d heard lots of great reports about the venue. When we showed up for soundcheck the room was very cold, no atmosphere, I think it had a tin roof. It didn’t even seem like a venue. Then, once the people came in, it transformed. The gig was class. There was a really magical atmosphere. Brilliant!
You appear to be very much at ease onstage these days with or without the band. Is that something you’ve had to work at?
I don’t know about “work at” but it’s definitely taken me a while to be comfortable being on stage in front of people. I don’t think about it too much anymore but I used to get really nervous, shaking and stuff. I think just by the actual amount of hours I’ve spent on stage now means that it’s a comfortable place for me. Well, most of the time anyway. If the sound stinks I can still get a bit shaky.
Malojian played what I believe was their first wedding party this year. I find visions of Murph and The Magic Tones from The Blues Brothers film in my mind when I think of wedding party bands. Is this the direction you see the band going in?
Haha! We’ve actually played at least one other wedding in the past. They’ve always been for people we know so we’re definitely not a wedding band “for hire” or anything. The one we played this year was class. It was in the couple’s back garden. They’re real music lovers and supporters so there were a couple of other bands playing too.
This year has also seen you play electric guitar onstage. Have any fans shouted “Judas’ yet?
There’s always one! I actually started off playing electric guitar many moons ago and then stopped when I got into the acoustic. I still play it on the records though so I’ve been looking to bring it into the live set for a while now.
2016 will see Malojian recording a new album in Chicago with producer Steve Albini. How did that come about? Why Steve and does this signal a shift in sound?
I’ve always dreamt about being able to record in America with a big name producer and I’ve been seriously looking into it for a couple of years now. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has an International Development programme which I applied to this year and was lucky enough to get accepted for. The reason why I chose Steve Albini is because I love his work ethic and his attitude to recording and to music in general. I wish I’d had him to guide me when I was younger. He gets tarred with the “heavy music” brush due to his association with those types of bands but he records all sorts. He’s one of the best engineers in the world and his studio is world class.
I think the only shift in sound will be that it’ll be closer to what we sound like live. I can’t wait!
Have you written the album yet?
The album’s about 90% written. I have some lyrics to finish but the songs and their structures are mostly done.
You are well known for playing new material live before recording it. Do you see this as an essential part of the evolution of a song?
Not necessarily. I think it’s good to get a feel for which songs connect with the audience but I wouldn’t let that be the sole determinant for which ones make the cut.
‘Calling Borneo’ is one of my favourite new songs that’s crept into recent live shows. Will it be on the album?
It’s on the list so hopefully. It’s a great one to play live because of its energy so we just need to try and capture that on tape.
Aside from recording the new album what else can we look forward to from Malojian in 2016?
I have some solo stuff in the pipeline which was planned before the Albini session was confirmed so I’ll be doing a bit of that and then hopefully get the band on the road again to keep building things.